Military Marvels

The shortest war on record lasted 38-45 minutes - The Anglo-Zanzibar War both began and ended on August 27th, 1896. The immediate cause of the war was the death of the pro-British Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini two days prior and the subsequent succession of Sultan Khalid bin Barghash. The British ordered that bin Barghash step down and allow Britain’s chosen successor to ascend to the throne; the Sultan refused. The British consul issued an ultimatum to Kahlid demanding that he order his forces to stand down and leave the palace, which expired at 09:00 on the 27th. The Royal Navy opened a bombardment at 09:02, which set the palace on fire and disabled the defending artillery. A small naval action took place when the sultan’s royal yacht, the HHS Glasgow, and two smaller boats, chose to open fire on the HMS St. George. The 98-gun duke-class ship of the line HMS St. George immediately returned the favor and sunk the HHS Glasgow instantly, along with the other two vessels. The flag at the palace was shot down and fire ceased when the Sultan surrendered at 09:46. The Zanzibari forces sustained roughly 500 casualties, while only one British petty officer was injured.

Napoleon Bonaparte defeated by army of bunnies - The bizarre moment in European history happened in July of 1807, after Napoleon signed the Treaties of Tilsit, officially marking the end of the war between the French Empire and Imperial Russia. Napoleon put his chief of staff, Alexandre Berthier, in charge of organizing the event. Berthier went overboard with his duties and accounts of the event estimate that he corralled up to 3,000 rabbits for the big hunt. As the hunters galloped into the field to catch their quarry, the rabbits didn’t scamper away in fear but bounded toward Napoleon and his men. Berthier had not trapped while hares, but had instead procured tame rabbits raised by local farmers, thus they did not see the men as a danger but as providers of food. Laughter turned to fear as the onslaught continued, with the horde of rabbits swarming their legs and climbing their clothing. Napoleon was forced to escape via carriage, flinging rabbits out of the windows as they fled.

The Australian military lost the Great Emu War of 1932 - After World War 1, the Australian Government initiated a soldier settlement scheme, giving around 5.030 former soldiers plots of land in which they were able to convert into working farms, primarily to cultivate wheat and sheep. By September 1920, the government had purchased 90,000 hectares for the veterans, but still needed more, and started to place the remaining soldiers in marginal areas of Perth. Up until 1932, emus had been a protected native species when they became a nuisance to wheat farms - flattening crops, eating them down to a stub – where they were officially reclassified as ‘vermin’. During the breeding season of 1932, roughly 20,000 of the large flightless birds had migrated inland, wreaking havoc on the marginal wheat farms to such an extent that the Australian government deployed the military to curb the population.

Led by Major G.P.W. Meredith of the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery, the army set out on November 2nd, 1932. When fired upon with light machine guns, the birds scattered themselves in all directions, splitting into small groups so that they were difficult to target. By the fourth day of the campaign, army observers noted that each pack seemed to have its own leader – a big black-plumed bird which stood six feet tall and kept watch while the others destroyed the crops, warning them of an enemy approach. Within six days, it was reported that Major Meredith’s party had used 2,500 rounds of ammunition - twenty-five per cent of the allotted total - to destroy only 200 emus. A second campaign was mounted November 13th, killing 40 emus, and about a month later it was reported that 100 emus were being killed every week. Meredith found that it took over 10 bullets to bring down every one single emu. All told, only about 968 birds were killed before the Seventh Heavy Battery was withdrawn due to negative media coverage.

The Ghost Planes of Pearl Harbor - It was reported that many American fighter pilots had seen ghost planes during and after the war. Fighter aircraft would appear and disappear without a trace. One such sighting occurred on December 8th, 1942, one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. When the United States Army’s radar started to pick up an unusual signal. It appeared to be an airplane that was heading for American soil from the direction of Japan. Two American pilots were sent out to investigate and intercept. They radioed back that the aircraft appeared to be a P-40 and that it bore markings that had not been used since the attack on Pearl Harbor. When they flew alongside the aircraft, they were shocked to find it was riddled with bullet holes and that the landing gear had been blown completely away. Looking closer, they checked on the cockpit where they noticed the pilot was slumped over, dead, yet the plane was still flying. Then suddenly, the plane plummeted from the sky and crashed to the ground below. American troops later investigated the crash site, but could not make out any identifiable markings on the plane. They also found no trace of the pilot or evidence of who he may have been.